Derry genealogist and regular ‘Journal’ contributor Brian Mitchell flew the flag for Derry at the recent ‘Who Do You Think You Are Live’ event at London’s Olympia - the biggest family history event in the world.
With interest in tracing family roots soaring in recent years, thanks to the success of television programmes like Who Do You Think You Are? the London event was hugely popular, with thousands of people attending.
Brian told the ‘Journal’: “It was fantastic. The whole event was totally dedicated to tracing family histories and we were one of hundreds of exhibitors there.
“I was there representing Derry Genealogy Centre, which is just part of a wider group of county genealogy centres throughout Ireland and part of Roots Ireland.ie. We were there to help and advise anyone who wanted to trace their roots, and up until an hour before closing there were still queues of people waiting to speak to us!
Brian and his Irish counterparts at the extended Irish section were in good company, with all the globally recognised genealogy sites hosting stands at the Olympia.
“All the main genealogy experts were there, including the big names like ‘findmypast.co.uk’ and ‘ancestry.co.uk’, who are now the biggest commercial provider in the world,” he says.
“’Findmypast.co.uk’ had their own stand decorated like the Titanic, and they all dressed in period costumes! There were lots of lectures and related events on too, but we were too busy to really attend any of those.
“Some of the celebrities from the Who Do You Think You Are TV show were there, including Richard Madley, Emilia Fox and Larry Lamb - although you had to pay to hear them talk about their own experiences.”
Brian and his fellow Irish genealogists were at the weekend-long event thanks to support from Tourism Ireland.
“At our stand, we were instructing people how to use the Roots Ireland.ie website. From 9.30am in the morning until it ended at 5.30pm, we were inundated with people interested in tracing their Irish roots. There must have been thousands of people there over the three days.
“There’s no doubt that having such detailed databases online has increased people’s interest in trace their ancestors,” Brian went on.
“It’s become so much more straightforward nowadays, thanks to the births, deaths and marriage records being put online as well as old censuses. There’s literally a wealth of information on these sites, and if you can find your ancestor on a database, then that could be enough to encourage some people to visit Ireland and research their roots more fully.”
“Probably the most impressive thing about the weekend was the sheer scale of the event itself - a sea of stands! I’m so glad I got the opportunity to go along.”